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Top 10 Albums of 2014

Nothing has bothered me more than hearing people say that 2014 was not a good year for Hip Hop. There were so many great albums released during this year that you must not have been paying attention to feel that way. 2014 produced notable comebacks from legendary groups like the Wu-Tang Clan and Dilated Peoples while also delivering much anticipated albums from the Step Brothers and Black Milk. Mississippi left a lasting mark in 2014 as 7evenThirty impressed on the independent scene with his album The Problem while Big K.R.I.T. made the album we all knew he could, Cadillactica, on the major label side of things. And speaking of the south, Nashville emcee Starlito proved once again why he’s one of the most underrated artists in the game on Black Sheep Don’t Grin. Atmosphere endeared themselves to listeners on the well crafted Southsiders, a particularly rewarding listen for longtime fans of Slug and Ant. The frontrunner for album of the year was Freddie Gibbs & Madlib’s Piñata, which somehow managed to live up to all the lofty expectations fans had for this emcee/producer collaboration. And while Piñata had the inside track on that top spot for most of the year, Run The Jewels shook up everything in late October. Killer Mike and El-P have been a tour de force ever since they decided to team up. These two artists, respected heavily for their work individually, have carved out a new legacy together as Run The Jewels. Their second album, Run The Jewels 2, ... Read More »

Top 10 Mixtapes/Free Albums of 2014

After years of trying to keep the mixtape and free albums categories separate, KN finally caves in and combines them. The ambiguous nature of what defines a mixtape or album in today’s Hip Hop scene makes it a losing battle trying to classify these two in different ways. So this time around, all free releases are thrown together. That means narrowing these choices became harder, but I think it also means the quality of each pick is that much better. This top 10 is heavily dominated by the south and the city of Chicago as Vince Staples is the only selection not from those areas. The number one spot was certainly a tough call with three very deserving contenders. Lil’ Boosie’s comeback endeavor Life After Deathrow easily could’ve been the top pick as it is some of the Baton Rouge native’s best work to date. Lil’ Herb emerged from the shadows of his cohort Lil’ Bibby to release Welcome To Fazoland and show the world he’s a force to be reckoned with for years to come. And while those aforementioned projects were incredible, Mick Jenkins’ The Water[s] was a true gem of 2014. The Chicago emcee has released some quality projects in the past, yet The Water[s] is a clear breakthrough for him. Jenkins really finds his voice on this record via his poignant observations on the world around him along with some excellent beat selection. It appears that big things are on the horizon for Mick Jenkins, but fans ... Read More »

Top 10 Slept-On Albums of 2014

The top slept-on albums of the year category has always been near and dear to KN. We’ve always prided ourselves in spotlighting talented artists who don’t get the constant coverage from major outlets and sharing their work with our readers. Slept-on albums epitomize that attitude as the artists and projects featured here may have flown under the radar, but truly warrant your time. The 2014 edition features a lot of KN favorites that we’ve shown love to over the past few years. Names like K-Rino, Marcel P. Black, CYNE MarQ Spekt, Willie The Kid and G-Side should be no strangers to our loyal readers. Also making the cut are some newer artists such as New York group RATKING andAtlanta-based Wara From The NHBD. Securing the top spot this year is Locksmith with his album A Thousand Cuts. The Bay Area emcee has always impressed with his rhyming capabilities, but this album was his most personal work to date. Locksmith opened up on this album while still maintaining his lyrical prowess to great results. Lock’s decision to be so candid, particularly on the brutally honest “Hardest Song Ever,” produced a connection to his fans that goes beyond his incredible wordplay. A Thousand Cuts deserves your ear, as do all of these albums, so don’t sleep on them! Locksmith – A Thousand Cuts K-Rino – Deprogrammed Marcel P. Black – Black Collar RATKING – So It Goes CYNE – All My Angles Are Right MarQ Spekt & Blockhead – JustPlayWitIt G-Side – Gz II Godz Willie ... Read More »

Top 10 EPs of 2014

The EP is such a powerful tool in today’s music landscape because so many artists are fighting for our limited attention. Being able to deliver a short, but potent record to listeners in the digital age is the perfect way to gain new fans as well as satisfy the needs of ardent supporters. 2014 produced so many quality EPs that it was tough to narrow this list down to just 10 selections. As you’ll see, that’s why so many honorable mentions are featured here. I think what’s most notable about this list is the wide arrange of stages these artists are at in their respective careers. The top 10 EPs of 2014 features veterans like Supastition & CunninLynguists, brand new talent such as Brown & OG Maco, and emerging stars in Vince Staples & Deniro Farrar. The top selection, though, goes to Los Angeles emcee Thurz and his Designer EP. After splitting from U-N-I a few years ago, Thurz made a statement with the socio-politically driven album L.A. Riots. Instead of following this breakthrough project with a similar theme, Thurz flips perceptions completely on the Designer EP. The EP is throwback to the g-funk vibes of classic West Coast rap and a lighthearted endeavor meant to put you in a good mood. Thurz accomplishes so much with just 7 tracks as his diversity and range as an artist is on full display. This must-listen record was an easy choice for the best EP of 2014. Check out the rest of picks below. Thurz – Designer Supastition ... Read More »

The 10 Most Disappointing Albums of 2014

This year, KN will be bringing you an abbreviated version of our annual “best of” lists. A major announcement coming later this week will better explain why this is happening, but I thought I would just give our readers a heads up that there will be just five categories for the 2014 lists. Also, this 2014 edition will be the editor’s picks. So whatever your thoughts on the 2014 selection are, your praise or disdain falls solely on my shoulders. Kicking things off is the most disappointing albums of the year. As I’ve stated in the past, it’s important to not look at this category as the worst albums of the year as it’s an inaccurate label for these LPs. These albums are deemed disappointing because I feel these artists are capable of better work and did not deliver a project that measures up to their respective capabilities. No album represents this sentiment more for me than The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. As a longtime fan of the group, it was a true letdown to see them sacrifice musicality for the concept. The Roots have shown they are quite capable of making a conceptual album that sounds good in the past, which is why it was so disappointing to see them not accomplish that on their latest effort. Worst of all, Black Thought felt like nothing more than a bit player on the album instead of the driving force that he should be. For these reasons, …And Then Your Shoot Your Cousin is the ... Read More »

Top 10 Albums of 2013

Justin Ivey: I clearly tipped my hand with the selection Rittz as my top emcee of 2013, so it should come as no surprise that The Life And Times Of Johnny Valiant is my selection for album of the year. The Georgia emcee found that perfect balance of diverse content with a cohesive sound on his Strange Music debut. Rittz used this album to display his talent as songwriter and storyteller, proving he was more than just a skilled lyricist with a rapid flow. While it may have flown under the radar this past year, I predict The Life And Times Of Johnny Valiant will eventual become a landmark album in the career of Rittz. The Wu-Tang Clan may not have delivered a new LP in time for their 20th anniversary, but their presence was felt this year. Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck and affiliate Killah Priest all earned spots in the top ten with their respective albums. Kno and Deacon The Villain were heavily involved in the creation of Still Motion, but Natti’s debut proved he could be a captivating orator without his CunninLynguists cohorts beside him. Don Trip & Starlito showed exactly why they should collaborate more often as their Step Brothers sequel did what few do: outdo the original. And I must mention the dual threats of Ka and Black Milk. Both men are equally as impressive on the mic as they are behind the boards and showed that once again in 2013. Rittz – The Life And Times Of Johnny Valiant Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge – Twelve ... Read More »

The 10 Most Disappointing Albums of 2013

It’s important to note that disappointing doesn’t equate to bad. The majority of these selections did not make this list because they are unlistenable, but because the artist is capable of so much more. Freddie Gibbs is one such artist. Gangsta Gibbs has an amazing track record which led to some understandably high hopes for his album ESGN. Instead of the excellence you’d expect, Gibbs released an album saturated with a shocking amount of filler and inferior guests. Q-Tip & Busta Rhymes made it necessary to include a mixtape on this list as they duped listeners expecting a long-awaited collaboration project from the two Native Tongues members. In the end, hopeful fans got stuck with a “best of” compilation tape made up of their past collaborations and a couple original cuts. One album that did go beyond disappointment was Kanye West’s Yeezus. While some critics (and fans) tried to find merit in what Mr. West created, most of us were trying to recover from the terrible listening experience that is Yeezus. An album meant to be challenging and provocative became unbearable and self-indulgent. The LP may be incredible in West’s mind, but it certainly didn’t resonate with myself and many others. Kanye West – Yeezus Jay-Z – Magna Carta… Holy Grail Freddie Gibbs – ESGN Earl Sweatshirt – Doris J. Cole – Born Sinner Q-Tip & Busta Rhymes – The Abstract & The Dragon (Mixtape) Tyler, The Creator – Wolf Trinity – 20 In Devin The Dude – One Time For The Road Action Bronson & Harry Fraud – Saaab Stories Read More »

Top 10 Smaller/Slept-On Albums of 2013

Justin Ivey: There’s so much music being put out these days, it’s understandable that some great LPs will get overlooked or not given their just due. One album that certainly deserves more praise and recognition is Quelle Chris’ Ghost At The Finish Line. The Detroit emcee has put out some quality projects before, but he hit it out the park with Ghost At The Finish Line. Chris’ twisted humor and outstanding beat selection resulted in one of the most entertaining albums of 2013. Smart Ass Black Boy was Houston’s Fat Tony’s growth as he finally found the right mix of sincerity to pair with his comedic sensibilities. While it may not have gotten as much attention as his free mixtapes tend to receive, Starlito was in vintage form on Cold Turkey. Lito pulls no punches on the LP as his heartfelt rhymes make you feel his frustration and pain. A few other slept-on albums cracking the top ten include excellent efforts by Detroit group Clear Soul Forces, the ghastly duo of The Doppelgangaz and G-Side member ST 2 Lettaz. Quelle Chris – Ghost At The Finish Line Fat Tony – Smart Ass Black Boy Starlito – Cold Turkey Clear Soul Forces – Gold PP7s ST 2 Lettaz – G: The Growth & Development The Doppelgangaz – HARK CASTLE – Gasface Kevin Gates – Stranger Than Fiction Shady Blaze – The 5th Chapter K-Rino – The Maven Honorable Mentions Lyriqs Da Lyraciss – D.A.I.L.Y.F. Greenhouse – Bend But Don’t Break Aceyalone – Leanin’ On Slick Max Minelli – Gunpowder For Breakfast MidaZ The Beast – AU: Another Universe Truth Universal – Invent ... Read More »

Top 10 Emcees of 2013

Justin Ivey: The top three on this list could truly be interchangeable as each emcee made quite the case for #1 crown. But in the end, no one impressed more than Rittz did in 2013. While the Georgia emcee displayed his lyrical abilities on White Jesus and his showstealing appearance on YelaWolf’s “Box Chevy Pt. 3” track, Rittz’s debut LP proved he was more than just tongue-twisting rhymer. The Life And Times Of Johnny Valiant showed a new level of introspection, awareness and creativity that earned him top honors. Killer Mike shined once again as his pairing with El-P continues to reap rewards. Mike’s rhymes have always captivated listeners, yet the backing of El-P has taken his commanding lyrics to new heights. Starlito was amongst the hardest working emcees in 2013 with three albums, a couple mixtapes and an EP all being released over the course of the year. The more impressive feat was the quality of each project the Nashville native dropped; it felt as if Lito was trying to top himself with each subsequent record. Ghostface Killah struck gold with the assistance of Adrian Younge while CunninLynguists member Natti’s solo debut proved he could hold down the fort on his own. And I’d be remiss without acknowledging Killah Priest, who tackled the difficult venture of the double LP and managed to craft one of his best works to date in doing so. Rittz Killer Mike Starlito Ghostface Killah Homeboy Sandman Natti Killah Priest Illogic Locksmith Planet Asia Honorable Mentions Quelle Chris Fat Tony Inspectah ... Read More »

Top 10 Mixtapes of 2013

It’s rare to see a mixtape drop at the beginning of the year and have the staying power to secure the top spot all the way at the end. Yet that’s what MaG accomplished though with his outstanding tape Freedom hosted by Mick Boogie. MaG’s tape was album-quality with its rich sound and poignant rhymes. I was familiar with K.L.U.B. Monsta before they released CANVAS, but the DJ Wally Sparks-assisted tape was an stunning revelation late in the year. It made a strong push to steal that top spot late in the year and is a must-listen for those who may have missed it. Nostalgia alone had me excited for the original Three 6 Mafia’s reunion as Da Mafia 6ix and their comeback tape delivered in a big way, making me feel like I had been transported back to the late 90’s. The south dominated much of my selections as emcees like Sy Ari Da Kid, Tito Lopez, Dee-1 & Kevin Gates kept adding to their already strong discographies in 2013. And just a reminder since this seems to happen a lot — before you voice any displeasure with a project not making this particular list, please check and see if was featured in the free albums category (if you haven’t already). MaG – Freedom K.L.U.B. Monsta – CANVAS Da Mafia 6ix – Da 6ix Commandments Sy Ari Da Kid – Definition Of Definition 2 Willie The Kid – Aquamarine Tito Lopez – Y.O.U. Trouble – The Return Of December 17th Robb Bank$ – Tha City Dee-1 – Psalms Of David II Kevin Gates – The ... Read More »

Top 10 Albums of 2014
Top 10 Mixtapes/Free Albums of 2014
Top 10 Slept-On Albums of 2014
Top 10 EPs of 2014
Albums / Mixtapes Instrumentals New Singles Sponsored Releases
Ben Boogz (of 2 Hungry Bros): Soleil (feat. DJ M-Tri)
MarQ Spekt & Blockhead: Devil’s Island Storyteller (feat. Sadat X)
RIZSELFMADE: Dat Made Life
Hassaan Mackey & Kev Brown: That Grit [EP Review]
Big K.R.I.T: Cadillactica [Album Review]
Black Milk: If There’s A Hell Below [Album Review]
Stalley: Ohio [Album Review]
Ras Kass Talks Blasphemy LP, Working with Apollo Brown and Longevity in Rap
D.S. Interview At 90.5 FM [Video]
Artist Spotlight: RF3RD
Otis Brown III Talks The Thought of You, Jazz & Hip Hop’s Symbiosis and Donald Byrd
RIZSELFMADE: Dat Made Life
Lazarus: Open Heart Surgery (feat. Bizarre of D12)
Clay James: Kool Water Intro (Music Video)
Git x 1Mt: Lifestyle of an Artist
Microphone Check 1-2, 1-2
Donwill: Bad With Names Episode 8: 2014 Wrap Up (feat Von Pea)
Donwill: Bad With Names Episode 7: The Fun of Feminism (ft. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh)
Donwill: Bad With Names Episode 6: The Honor Roll (ft. Mike Baker & Tap 10)